Many people believe that an eye exam only evaluates your eyesight, so if you recently passed the RMV’s vision test or another vision screening, you don’t need to see an eye doctor, right?
Nope. An eye exam is much more than checking your vision and prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Thorough eye exams are important for detecting vision problems and also for assessing your overall health. A thorough eye exam can detect a number of serious medical conditions, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, as well as common eye conditions such as cataracts. An eye exam can also show evidence of diabetes and other health issues.
Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, the fibers inside the eye that carry visual images to the brain. Unfortunately, a person can be unaware of glaucoma until it is very late – there is no pain with most forms of glaucoma, and vision is not blurry in the earlier stages of the disease. Glaucoma is treatable if caught in its early stages; if left undiagnosed, the disease can lead to total blindness.
Cataracts, a clouding of the lens inside the eye, are another common eye problem. Early clouding can be corrected with eyeglasses. Eventually, surgery may be needed to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a permanent, plastic implant. There is no laser procedure to remove cataracts and there are no medications to treat cataracts or prevent their formation.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is a disease associated with aging that causes loss of central vision. The macula is used for fine central vision such as reading, recognizing faces, and recognizing colors. Any damage to the macula may have a profound effect on central vision and daily functioning. In many cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little or no change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a significant loss of central vision in both eyes. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. Some forms can be treated or slowed.
A comprehensive eye exam done by an optometrist or ophthalmologist may show signs of some conditions and diseases. By looking at the retina, its blood vessels, and other parts of the eye, your eye doctor may be able to detect if you are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other health problems.
In addition, an annual eye exam is extremely important for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes. Damage to the blood vessels in your eyes (called diabetic retinopathy) can cause vision loss and is a leading cause of blindness. When retinopathy is found early, treatment may help you to maintain your vision.
Caring for your eyes should always be a part of your regular healthcare routine. We understand how busy life can be, and therefore how important convenience is to make it easier for you to be healthy. Atrius Health offers comprehensive eye care services for adults and children at many locations.
Updated July 2021